‘Thyme’ dir. Max Lincoln

Shaun’s bland work dominates his life, until a magical pot of thyme makes him reconsider how to spend his precious time.

Writer: Amiée Bick
Director: Max Lincoln
Producer: Pinja Tenhunen
DOP: Ciarán Maginn
Key Cast: Joseph Capp, Bethan Cullinane

C8: How did you come across Aimée Bick’s script and what made you want to direct it?

ML: ‘Thyme’ was my graduation film and it was one of nine scripts that had made its way through three intense pitching stages. Our producer Pinja felt I would do Aimée’s writing justice and offered it my way. I have always been drawn to the fantastical and films that are heavily visual. Reading the first scene I was transported to the eccentric 50’s world of the Coen’s ‘The Hudsucker Proxy’ and knew it would be the perfect film for me.

C8: How did you go about casting the film? Were you looking for something in particular?

ML: Initially my casting plan was to aim for the big stars I felt would be perfect for the film, such as James McAvoy as the lead and Christopher Lee as the Supervisor. Both were unavailable so I looked to Spotlight where I found the brilliant Joseph Capp as our lead and the other key actors. The superb Bethan Cullinane had recently left RADA and was an amazing recommendation by a director I had worked with.

When casting I was aiming to have actors that would suit the 50’s aesthetic but other than that I was pretty open to who ever took my directions best and brought more to our characters.

C8: How did you approach working with the actors on this film and did you have a rehearsal period before the shoot?

ML: Before the shoot we had several rehearsals of the key scenes. The main aim was to bring Joseph and Bethan together to explore their relationship, which in turn drives him toward the magical pot of thyme. During the shoot the cast and myself were staying alone in a breathtaking 50’s house in Sandbanks where we would be filming the kitchen and home scenes. This meant that each night we could rehearse, so that things stayed fresh the following day. It also allowed for the two leads to get to know each other better and so their chemistry on screen would be real.

C8: The film was shot on 16mm. What experience did you already have in shooting on film when you made ‘Thyme’?

ML: As we only had six rolls of film, we had to be extremely careful with what we were shooting. This led to my method on set of rehearsing each scene first, doing tech rehearsals and then getting everything in one take. This kept things fresh and meant we could achieve our ambitious shot list.

Overall the experience on film was good, but watching our rushes back we saw first hand the downside to film in that our Clapper had flashed a mag. Fortunately, through clever editing and a genius colourist, we worked around it.

C8: What do you feel shooting on film offers that other formats do not?

ML: Due to the price of film and having limited stock it makes you become more conscious and concise with your filmmaking, so there is less wasted footage or wasted time on set. I find that some directors on digital don’t really think about what they want; rather they just shoot everything and hope it will work.

Also there is something quite magical about film grain, it makes the footage feel alive and accentuates the beauty of your world.

C8: The film looks very distinctive. How did you work with Director of Photography Ciarán Maginn to achieve your vision?

Ciarán had shot my last short ‘The Chair’ and so I knew he had the perfect sensibilities to shoot ‘Thyme’. We began by showing each other lots of reference films, with ‘Citizen Kane’ and ‘The Trial’ being two key examples. From there we also included several homage’s to other great films such as ‘The Third Man’. This created a kind of film style manifesto where our shooting style would change (like the design) between our two worlds. The structured and ordered world of A.I.R Industries and the kinetic and colourful world of food and his kitchen.

C8: You won ‘Best Student Short’ at the West Virginia FILMmakers Festival. How has the festival circuit responded to ‘Thyme’?

ML: This was the first film I had properly sent round the circuit and so initially I feel I chose the wrong festivals to enter and subsequently didn’t get in. We learned that ‘Thyme’ was more suited to a European audience and it got a brilliant response in festivals in Paris and Berlin. The only downside is that many didn’t get the pun that the film is based on and the line “what a waste of thyme” worked less well. Since then I have screened at many film events in London such as at the excellent Cinema Jam but it’s yet to have an official UK debut.

C8: Do you think that Film Festivals are still such a relevant place for emerging filmmakers to showcase their work or do you think there are other ways to get your work seen now?

ML: These days it’s the easiest it has ever been to make and exhibit a film through the Internet but the by-product of this is that it’s harder to shine through the masses. Film festivals are brilliant as they help to highlight what’s worth viewing. Plus when looking for funding, by wining something or doing well at festivals it shows the money people you are worth their investment. The big change however is that these days there are now some excellent websites/blogs such as yourselves or 1.4 that sifts through the films for us so I think in the coming years festivals will start to lose some of their appeal.

C8: What advice would you give to filmmakers wanting to make their first short?

ML: Not to worry about starting with a giant crew behind them or thousands of pounds. Begin with a simple idea and some great fresh actors and go guerrilla with a small team. Then step up the scale with each project.

C8: Where does ‘Thyme’ sit in your career? What had you done before it?

ML: I had begun my career by making small art films and co-directing some music videos. This ended with my foundation final piece of ‘Transformers: The Musical’ a small short using only cardboard as the set and costumes. From then I only really began to find my style with my first proper short ‘The Chair’ a film about a chair that harasses an artist to paint a picture of it. ‘Thyme’ has been my largest film to date and my biggest step towards the filmic worlds of the Coen’s, Gilliam, and Nolan that I love. I hope that it sits nicely at the start of my career as Doodlebug has for Nolan.

C8: What is the essence of a good collaboration?

Being in sync with your collaborators and working together, to boost each other’s strengths and skills to achieve something that you couldn’t have alone.

C8: This is your second short as director. What is on the horizon for you? Any exciting projects?

Presently I have a music video I’ll be directing in the works, inspired by the ‘Wizard of Oz’ but having the three companions as the baddies. I have also written a new script that I hope to start looking for financing soon. It’s set in a similar stylised world but going down more of a noir route with mistaken/blurred identities and more sinister characters. This will also be quite an exciting challenge as it will be my first big short film I’ll make outside of a comfortable university setting.